I, a semi politically savvy 16-year-old, strongly disagree with lowering the voting age. With an election looming, I’ve been looking at as much policy as possible, and have come across some ill-considered remarks on this issue from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and ex-Labor senator Sam Dastyari. As a demographic, we’re not often featured in serious political discussion so I appreciate the idea, or at least I would if it had some semblance of sanity to it. Can you imagine year tens and elevens going out to vote on issues like industrial relations, healthcare, and immigration? I certainly can’t – here’s why:
- Peer Pressure
I thought I’d start with a classic. Peer and parental pressure is a problem teenagers already have to deal with all the time. The fear of social ostracisation is real and at the forefront of everyone’s mind. There is no need to give us another way to lose the respect and regard of our family and peers. If peer pressure works in relation to major issues such as drug use and sexual activity, it would definitely work for something like voting on issues that barely affect us as teens.
- Foreign Political Influence
We’ve all been exposed to the media fanfare that is American politics. Everyone has an opinion on Trump, Clinton, Russian collusion, and gun control. However, ask your average Australian teen about their stance on the Adani coal mines or Australian unions, and few will be able to express an educated view. Let’s face it, we follow American politics because of the drama and suspense; Australian politics is nowhere near as intense or as easy to follow… so we don’t. In light of this, a lot of young people base their opinions off of Republican and/or Democratic Party policy without considering Australian political culture and issues.
- Media Influence
Mainstream media is definitely not the most reliable source of information. Bias is rife across every channel, every newspaper, and every social media post. There is little to no political discourse. How can younger voters be expected to make informed decisions when we’re just learning to distinguish between opinionated falsehoods and truthful media coverage? After all, we are constantly being exposed to mainstream media and if we’re told something enough, it must be true, right?
To be honest, a lot of teenagers don’t care about politics. We have much more pressing matters to address like preparing for the HSC, getting some work experience or joining the workforce, and dealing with our growing independence – our plates are already relatively full. As well as this, young voter turnout has traditionally been lower than that of people over 40. What makes Labor think that decreasing voting age will make anyone more interested in turning up? If you’re thinking about the fines, I doubt that the majority of teenagers would be paying their own fines at this stage so it’s of little consequence to them.
- Other Political Opportunities
There are plenty of opportunities to be involved in politics before you reach 18. Instead of forcing everyone who’s not interested in politics to vote, promote the youth wings of the parties to those who want to get involved. This is a great way for 16-30 year olds to become educated in all things political and meet heaps of like-minded people in the process. If that’s too much of a commitment, then there’s YMCA Youth Parliament, Youth Council, Rotary Adventure in Citizenship, UN Youth, work experience in your local member’s office, peaceful protests… you get my point. If younger demographics do want to have their say and get involved, there are plenty of ways to do so before going so far as letting them vote.
Whilst all of these points could apply to a number of voters, they are especially applicable to under 18s. As much as I hate to admit it, 16-year-olds do not have the emotional or cognitive maturity to allow them to navigate the world of voting. In changing the voting age, we’d be catering to the minority of younger teenagers who have the life experience and intellectual means to vote, and that’s not what good policy is about. Society has deemed that 18 is the age we become an adult. It’s the age we can start to serve in the defence forces, get married, drink alcohol, and do literally anything without parental consent. It’s the age where we are deemed mature enough to take on the world on our own. Why should the right to vote require any less maturity? I’d love to vote, but I am perfectly happy to wait. Two years is not that long in the scheme of things, and there’s certainly a lot more I could learn about the confusing, ever-changing political sphere of Australia.